United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
D. PETERSON, DISTRICT JUDGE
Calvin Mark Arms seeks judicial review of a final decision of
defendant Nancy Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social
Security, denying his application for supplemental security
income and disability insurance benefits for a four-year
period between 2011 and 2015. The administrative law judge
(ALJ) found that Arms had several severe impairments during
the period in question, but concluded that Arms retained the
residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work with
several postural, environmental, mental, and movement
restrictions. Within this RFC, the ALJ determined that Arms
could meet the demands of both his past work and other jobs
in the economy, so the ALJ found him not disabled.
appeal, Arms contends that: (1) the restrictions included in
the RFC failed to account for all of Arms's mental and
hearing-related limitations and were inadequately explained;
(2) there were unexplained discrepancies between the
vocational expert's testimony and the Dictionary of
Occupational Titles; and (3) the vocational expert's
job-numbers testimony lacked a foundation and was not
sufficiently reliable. The court concludes that a remand is
necessary because the ALJ failed to adequately explain why he
didn't include certain limitations in the RFC.
first applied for disability benefits in 2007, but this
appeal concerns an application that he submitted in 2013. It
is Arms's second appeal of this application for benefits.
In a March 24, 2016 decision, ALJ Michael Shaefer determined
that Arms became disabled on March 1, 2015 and awarded
benefits as of that date, but denied benefits for the period
dating back to Arms's alleged disability onset date of
June 30, 2011. R. 17-34. Arms appealed that decision to this
court. Before the case was fully briefed, the parties
stipulated to remand the case to the agency with instructions
that the ALJ should reevaluate the RFC finding, describe how
the evidence supports the RFC finding, further evaluate
Arms's symptoms and the opinion evidence, and, if
warranted, obtain supplemental vocational expert testimony.
See Arms v. Colvin, No. 16-cv-595-slc (W.D. Wis.,
Jan. 23, 2017). The same ALJ held another hearing on January
18, 2018, at which he heard testimony from Arms; an agency
psychological expert, Dr. Ellen Rozenfeld; and a vocational
expert, Dr. Jacquelyn Wenkman. He issued a new decision
denying Arms's application for back benefits in April
2018. R. 2204-18.
found that Arms suffered from several severe impairments
during the period in question: bilateral shoulder and left
hip anthropathies, mood disorder/dysthymia, anxiety,
personality/intermittent explosive disorders, and attention
deficit hyperactivity/learning disorders. R. 2208. He found
that Arms had “more than mild but no more than moderate
limitations in understanding, remembering, or applying
information; interacting with others; concentrating,
persisting, or maintaining pace; and adapting or managing
oneself.” R. 2210. In light of these and other
limitations, the ALJ found that Arms maintained the RFC to
perform light work with additional restrictions. Only some of
those restrictions are relevant for the purposes of this
decision. They include three restrictions that Arms says do
not reflect the underlying medical evidence:
• Should avoid all exposure to very loud noise in the
workplace, and is limited to work not requiring fine hearing
capability or frequent verbal communication
• Limited to understanding, remembering and carrying out
simple instructions and routine, repetitive tasks (at GED
language and reasoning levels of two or below)
• Limited to only simple work-related decisions or
judgments performed in an environment not involving fast
paced production requirements and few if any changes in work
duties or environment
2210-11. Arms contends that two of the other restrictions in
the RFC are inconsistent with the jobs that the ALJ found he
• Can frequently push or pull laterally or to the front
but never overhead on any routine basis
• Can only occasionally reach about shoulder height R.
on the RFC, the ALJ determined that, between 2011 and 2015,
Arms could have performed his past relevant work as a product
assembler (DOT 706.687-010), both as that work was actually
performed by Arms in the past and as it is generally
performed in the national economy. R. 2215. A claimant who
can perform his past relevant work is not disabled as a
matter of law. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1560(b)(2).
The ALJ also concluded based on testimony from the vocational
expert that there were other jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that Arms could perform, such
as packaging (DOT 920.687-090), assembly (DOT 737.684-022),
or cleaning jobs (DOT 323.687-014). R. 2216. This finding was
an independent basis for deeming Arms not disabled.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1560(c).
accordance with these findings, ALJ Shaefer denied Arms's
application for benefits. This appeal followed.
court reviews the final decision of an ALJ “to
determine whether it applies the correct legal standard and
is supported by substantial evidence.” Summers v.
Berryhill, 864 F.3d 523, 526 (7th Cir. 2017).
Substantial evidence means “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Stephens v. Berryhill, 888 F.3d
323, 327 (7th Cir. 2018). The court reviews the record as a
whole, but it cannot ...